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(110:04 2CD, Seacrest Oy Records)
Prolusion. The multinational (based in Finland) project THE SAMURAI OF PROG is a venture that was started by Marco Bernard and Kimmo Porsti back in 2009, from 2010 and onwards also featuring the talents of Steve Unruh. They started out releasing an album mainly consisting of cover material, but have gradually started to incorporate a growing number of original compositions with successive productions. "Lost and Found" is their fourth studio album, and was released in the spring of 2016 by the Finnish label Seacrest Oy.
TRACKLIST: 1. Preludin 7:38 2. Along the Way 2:22 3. Inception 20:02 4. She 12:11 5. Plight of the Swan 10:33 LINEUP: Steve Unruh – vocals; violin; flute Marco Bernard – bass Kimmo Porsti – drums With: Steve Scorfina (ex-Pavlov’s Dog) - guitars Jon Davison (Yes) – vocals Linus Kaase – saxophones Stefan Renstrom – keyboards Llorian Garcia – electronic bagpipes &: Seven additional musicians and singers
Analysis. This recording by The Samurai of Prog is a production that in one way can be seen as a massive, double album feature of cover material, but in another way can be regarded as a purebred production of originals. And while a new album, it can also kind of be regarded as an archival release. Neither fish nor fowl on multiple levels. And while the content on one hand may be described as being "regressive", the compositions themselves are really truly progressive rock material in the true and original meaning as well. The back story here is that the core trio of the band started discussing a specific case with musicians they know, the topic being unreleased material. A topic which lead to a restoration project of sort being born, The Samurai of Prog opting to record and release an album's worth of unreleased material by some of the musicians they were talking with. Hence this double album, which only covers a few of the items submitted to the band, from what I understand, with material written by members of and presumably originally intended for the bands Pavlov's Dog, Lift, Odyssey, Cathedral and Quill. I think most if not all of them had been recorded on tape reels or cassettes, but none of them officially released. The Samurai of Prog and an ensemble of guest musicians have then recorded these compositions anew, rearranged and expanded the original material a bit, and presented the end result as this massive double album, complete with a thick booklet featuring further details about the project, the contributors, full lyrics and the excellent (as usual) art work of Ed Unitsky. The first CD opens with the instrumental Preludin, a sweet and playful affair that, to my mind, touches base with most of the giants of progressive rock as far as style and sound are concerned. A bit of Kansas here, a touch of Jethro Tull there, some Gentle Giant landscapes playfully visited alongside excursions into landscapes more typical of the likes of Genesis, all done in an elegant, almost whimsical yet stylish manner. A proper prelude, open, inviting and familiar sounding. This is followed by a short piano piece by David Myers, the only recent composition here, composed and performed by Myers himself. In this case a lightly melancholic affair that, perhaps, may be a spiritual or functional companion piece to Mussorgsky's ‘Promenade’ in “Pictures at an Exhibition”, as it walks with us from the inviting opening scene into the exhibition proper. The massive, 20-minute long Inception is next up, a majestic and elegant excursion into landscapes dominated by Mellotron, vintage keyboards and organ, often fairly dark in mood and atmosphere, but with Genesis-tinged arrangements as the main recurring feature. Flute and violin are used throughout to expand the scope ever so slightly, and I wouldn't be all that surprised if early King Crimson fueled some of the inspiration for the darker and more majestic sequences here either – vintage symphonic progressive rock of solid quality it is, well executed and well performed, and a composition that belongs to the legacy of the US progressive rock band Lift. She (Who Must Be Obeyed) is next up, this cut pulled from the legacy of the US band Odyssey, which served as the precursor band to Cathedral, if I got my facts sorted right. This epic creation isn't quite as enthralling as the others, I must admit. It is still vintage symphonic progressive rock, with perhaps a few more organ-dominated sections, but I get a feeling that this song perhaps wasn't intended to be quite as progressive and symphonic as it is in this version. It would have been interesting to hear this one arranged more along the lines of a band such as Steppenwolf really, as it is a bit anonymous in this version, as I experience it. To use the light-toned vocals of Davison to contrast the often darker tones of the guitar, bass and organ prominent here, doesn't quite work as well as perhaps it should either. There's nothing substantially wrong with the composition as such, but it strikes me as a bit anonymous first and foremost, especially when compared to the other songs on this double album. The relatively short Plight of the Swan concludes the first disc and is a return to a better worked out, more successful venture into the realms of vintage symphonic progressive rock. This composition, originally intended for the US band Cathedral, also returns us to landscapes where the Genesis associations are a recurring feature throughout, but also with bouts and passages sporting a darker, more ominous sound at times, indicating that other sources have been inspiring as well when this compositions was penned originally. Another solid, quality piece of music that should please the greater majority of those who treasure the ‘70s varieties of this kind of progressive rock.
TRACKLIST: 1. The Demise 57:18 LINEUP: Same
Analysis. The second disc of this double album contains one mammoth creation, the close to 60-minute long, 36-part strong opus The Demise. Originally made with the US band Quill in mind, this epic creation opens in a manner that reminds quite a bit of Rick Wakeman's classic mid ‘70s album "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" with orchestral, symphonic details and a narrative voice. While the narration is limited, orchestral details are a recurring feature throughout this almost hour long journey, the song soon developing towards more of a classic Genesis tinged arrangement, which is another recurring feature throughout. The lead vocals in particular emphasize this connection, in tone as well as delivery. But there's also room for a liberal amount of standalone organ transitions, more powerful and haunting sections closer to the likes of Kansas, a few instances of sections closer to the likes of folk-oriented escapades of the kind Jethro Tull incorporated into their material early on. The saxophone is used to further expand the canvas and context explored, but at the end of the day I'm left with the Genesis associations being the most prominent in my mind. And it is an impressive composition on many levels as well. Not brilliant, it does have a few sections that, for me, halt momentum a bit too much at times, it is an interesting excursion that manages to maintain nerve and tension throughout, another solid, quality creation on what is a solid, quality double album.
Conclusion. Those who know, love and treasure vintage-era symphonic progressive rock should take note of this double album straight way, at least those not already aware of its existence. This is a double feature of vintage compositions created in the vintage era, never officially released, that have been reworked and recorded by a quality set of musicians today. The performances are good, the production is good, and there's an air of well thought out, well developed and solid quality about this entire production. A delightful treat for the right audience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 7 & 8, 2016
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